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Sausage Making - The Craft
Although, I strongly disagree with those who refer to sausage making as an art, I will agree that it is art like, in the sense that it involves exceptional skill, mostly derived from experience, to become an accomplished home sausage maker. Learning how to make good sausage is a challenge, and it’s going to take more than a great recipe or a bag of the best sausage seasoning to make it happen. It will require your absolute attention–– if your goal is to become a skilled sausage maker.
Because I have been making sausage for most of my life, I fully understand the process, and I’m certain I can help you make a better product from this point forward. I am delighted to have this chance to offer my lifetime of learning. I would hope the benefit of sharing my expertise is that you won’t have to endure years of trial and error before you put together a good product. Enclosed is the knowledge to help you circumvent the dead-end recipes that nearly drove me to the loony bin. It is my hope that this information will make you a better home-based sausage maker.
Sausage is primarily a combination of ground meats and fat laced with measures of salt, herbs, spices, and other ingredients including sugar or dextrose, and sometimes cure and a binding agent. The seasoned sausage mixture can be used bulk style and shaped into patties, or it can be stuffed into a variety of sausage casings, which determines the distinctive shape of an individual sausage.
When you begin to put together your first batch of sausage using this book, it’s important to stick to the recipe formula. Upon the completion of your first batch, you may think the sausage is terrific as is, or possibly there’s too much fennel seed, or not enough red pepper. It could happen, because my idea of an Italian sausage might not be what you had in mind, a problem easily remedied by personalizing the recipe formula. It’s simple enough to alter ingredients in an effort to appease your taste buds, but I wouldn’t suggest it until after you have completed your first batch of sausage and have a better understanding of how the sausage making process works.
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It has been established that sausage making began more than 2000 years ago as an ingenious way for over taxed farmers to make use of scrap meat and blood left over from butchering hogs and cattle. Imagine their exhilaration when they first tasted their experiment and realized they had come up with an amazing taste sensation. The news of their creation would have spread from clan to clan, butcher to butcher, and town to town, with each individual experimenting with his own version of this newfangled foodstuff.
I would have been honored to have met those ingenious people with the forethought to strip out a pig intestine and scrub it clean, then fill it with finely chopped meat scraps and whatever seasoning was available at the time. No doubt, their first experiments were less than perfect but these extraordinary peoples clearly continued until they got it right. We are the beneficiaries of their dedication.
Fresh Sausage (Uncooked Sausage)
Fresh sausage can be made from beef, pork, lamb, veal, venison, poultry or a combination of meats. Because it’s made from raw uncured meat and is neither cured nor cooked at any time during the manufacturing cycle, it must be kept under refrigeration to keep it from spoiling. Moreover, to inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms which have been known to cause food borne illnesses, it should be fully cooked to 160°F (70°C) before being served.
The USDA recommends that it be cooked to 165°F (74°C) when it’s made from either ground turkey or chicken. This sausage type is simple to make at home as it’s nothing more than ground meat, seasoned appropriately, mixed well, then formed into patties or stuffed into a natural or synthetic casing and twisted into various size links. Making such sausage is incredibly satisfying, especially when it’s grilled over a hardwood fire and slow cooked until it’s crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.
Although fresh sausage has a limited shelf life at temperatures between 34-40°F (1-4°C), it can be vacuum sealed and frozen up to 6 months. It’s sold as bulk sausage, patties or links, and then pan fried, baked, broiled or grilled until it’s fully cooked. Fresh sausage is deemed to be fully cooked when the interior of the sausage turns gray and the juices run clear (no pink). Examples are pork sausage, Italian sausage, bratwurst, Swedish potato sausage, linguica, chicken feta, boudin and Mexican chorizo.
This sausage type is made from fresh ground meat, either beef, pork or venison or a combination. Ingredients usually include additional fat, salt, curing salt, dextrose, herbs, and spices. The seasoned sausage meat is stuffed into a natural or synthetic casing and cooked in a hot water bath until the internal temperature reaches 152°F (67°C).
Note: The USDA recommends an internal temperature of 160°F (70°C).
Though it can be eaten right after cooking, it’s generally refrigerated overnight in order to give the infusion of ingredients enough time to influence the flavor of the finished product. The most popular examples of this sausage type is cotto salami, braunscheiger, bockwurst, Vienna sausage and weisswurst.
To make sure that you don’t over smoke the product, follow the smoke cooking instructions included with each recipe/formula. It’s important to start at 130°F To make sure that you don’t over smoke the product, follow the smoke cooking instructions included with each recipe/formula. It’s important to start at 130°F (54°C) and gradually increase the smokehouse temperature to 170°F (77°C). And go easy on the smoke; too much can ruin the sausage. Examples of smoke cooked sausage include Andouille, ring bologna, bierwurst, snack sticks, honey roll, old-fashioned bologna, jagdwurst, German sausage, cheddarwurst and kielbasa. Smoked cooked sausage can be eaten either hot or cold.
Smoked And Cooked Sausage
The smoke cooked process is much the same as cooked sausage, except the product is dry-cooked inside the smokehouse chamber instead of being slow-cooked in a hot water bath. It’s also enhanced with the deep, rich, smoky flavor resulting from being completely immersed in hardwood smoke. In this process, the product is smoked and cooked until it reaches an internal temperature of 152°F (67°C). USDA recommends an internal temperature of 160°F (70°C).
Semi-dry sausages normally contain a significant proportion of lean meat used as a precautionary measure to prevent the product from turning rancid during the fermentation process. Semi-dry sausage is usually stuffed into medium-and large-diameter natural beef middles or artificial fibrous casings. The length of time it takes to produce this group of sausages depends largely upon the type but rarely exceeds several days. Semi-dry sausages are heated in the oven or a smokehouse and then partially dried with or without smoke.
Cervelat would be the general classification for this group of semi-dry sausages which include summer sausage, mortadella, thuringer and Lebanon bologna. Each is characterized by its distinctive tangy flavor attributable to lactic acid fermentation. While it is a semi-soft sausage, it is harder than either smoke cooked or cooked sausage, though not as hard as its dry-cured equivalent. Mildly-seasoned, semi-dry sausages are generally made from pork or beef or a mixture of the two, although venison is sometimes used as well.
The finished product is dependent upon the sugar bacterial fermentation and other changes that occur during the extended drying and aging process. The length of time it takes dry sausage to mature, with or without added smoke, hinges upon a range of factors including meat preparation, casing diameter, product specifications and general drying conditions. The actual drying and aging time can reduce the green weight by as much as 30-40% and take upwards of three months to complete.
Though many home-based sausage makers prefer natural casings, the use of protein-lined fibrous casings is gaining in popularity. A protein coating painted on the inside of the casing allows it to shrink around the product as it dries. The addition of a string-tied effect gives the finished sausage an Old World appearance.
Dry Cured Sausage
Dry sausage is made from beef and pork and seasoned with a combination of ingredients which include alt, curing salt and a fast acting starter culture used to control the fermentation process. Unlike semi-dry sausage, which requires minimal time to produce, making a proper dry-cure sausage is a lengthy process during which time the product must be monitored to ensure the correct temperature and humidity is maintained at all times. Popular dry sausages include Spanish chorizo, hard salami, salami Genoa and pepperoni.